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From One Farmer/Artist to Another

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Eco-print From Orange Cosmos & Onion Skins

From one fiber artist/farmer to another, as promised, I will share my steps to eco-printing below, so you can use your brief creative time with little trial and error.

1. Pre-mordant the fabric. Some people do not pre-mordant, but the natural dyer in me said, “pre-mordant”. I first washed the silks well, rinsed them, and put them in a mordant bath with alum and cream of tartar. I use 10% of the weight of the silk for alum and  5% for the cream of tartar. Bring the pot to a low simmer and then turn off the heat. Leave the silks in the pot to cool.

Lay Plant Material on Silk

2. Collect leaves and flowers for printing. I have found that fallen leaves produce the most saturated colors. Wet your pre-mordanted silk and lay it out on a table. Arrange the plant material on top of the silk.

3. Now you will need a “resist” of some sort to cover the silk. I use a piece of 2ml plastic, but you could use a piece of white cotton fabric. The resist keeps the color more concentrated in one place rather than bleeding through several layers. When I am only printing with onion skins, I do not use a resist as I want the color to soak through all the layers of fabric.

Rolled and Bound

4. Next, I  roll the silk and resist onto a wooden dowel rod as tightly as I can and bind it with a long piece of string.

Charred Silk from a Dry Pot

5. I use my canner to steam the roll, putting a couple of inches of water in the bottom of the pot and laying the roll on top of the rack in the bottom of the pot. You do not want the roll to lay in the water but above the water. I let it steam for at least an hour with the lid on the pot. Be careful not to let the water evaporate, I learned that one the hard way.

6. Now you must wait. Resist opening that roll for as long as possible. The longest I have gone has been 2 days, but the longer you wait, the better. Once unrolled, let it air dry. Then heat set the print with an iron. After a couple of weeks, you can gently wash your silk. I did discover that if you wash the silk before you heat set it, some of the dye bleeds into other areas of the scarf. I actually liked the effect.

Most likely there are hundreds of ways to do eco-printing. This is one way, that one shepherd/artist has discovered to capture autumn colors on silk.

Unrolling the Silk From the Dowel Rod